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The International Writers Magazine: How Fiction Impacts on Kids

Five get me into Trouble
Claire Holland

Four days after my ninth birthday, my parents moved house and so did I. And my little world fell apart.
Help me!
I have been kidnapped...

I was the third child in the family and until two weeks before my appearance, no one knew I was coming. In the sixties there were no ultra sounds, so it was not until my pregnant mother was convinced from the constant kicking that she was about to give birth to an octopus that anyone thought to have a closer look.

Sent to have an x-ray, all was revealed and Mom spent an afternoon walking around the park before finding the courage to go home and inform her husband that he was about to become a father to twins. Not forgetting the toddler they already had who was just hitting the Terrible Twos. Their marriage barely survived the shock.

So, as you might imagine, I was born into a stressed-out family and found it much easier to immerse myself in books, to escape the atmospheres.

I must have been about seven when I discovered Enid Blyton and the Famous Five. I loved them. Julian was my hero: tall, brave and terribly grown up, always finding a way out of a problem; Dick: loyal and honest, ready to back up his brother; Anne: traditional girl personified, happy to be the homemaker; Tim: the faithful, intelligent, tail-wagging hound; And George; tomboy, maverick, independent early feminist: and my favourite.

I ruined my eyes reading under the bed covers with a torch. I devoured all twenty-one of their adventures and then read them again, and again. In fact, whenever I needed to, I ran to my friends, the Famous Five. They were always there for me. I believed in them, trusted them; if ever I was in trouble I knew they would come to my rescue.
When my family was uprooted from our cosy semi to the draughty Georgian pile that was the Ironbridge Post Office I was miserable. I wanted to go back home. So, I wrote a letter to the Famous Five, telling them how I had been kidnapped from my home in Wolverhampton and taken to Ironbridge where I was being held for ransom, how the kidnappers had killed my parents and would undoubtedly kill me too, and begging them to come quickly to my aid.
And posted it; through my bedroom window. And instantly felt better.

The letter, which fell three storeys to the ground into the Square and car park below, was read by an upstanding member of the community, who delivered it immediately to the Police. Being an intelligent nine year-old, I had accurately recorded both addresses, not wanting the Famous Five to have to waste time asking for directions.
Which meant that the Shropshire police knew exactly which house to send the SWAT team to. The innocent Mr and Mrs Jones who had bought the house from my parents were woken by screaming sirens and blue lights descending on the quiet cul-de-sac, dragged out of their beds, subjected to intensive questioning and searches for any children on the premises. When it became apparent there were no kidnapped children, the police then tore back to Shropshire and hammered at my parents’ door.

The first I knew of the night’s dramas was being bundled out of my bed by my furious father and being held in front of a huge Police Sergeant. I had to confirm my identity and that I had not been kidnapped and nobody was dead. I remember my bewildered shame and the shocked look on my mother’s face and the horrible knowledge that I had done a truly awful thing. I remember being sent back to bed but not sleeping again that night. I remember going to school the next day under a cloud of utter disgrace and my teacher asking me if everything was alright, presumably because I looked as sick as I felt. I remember being afraid to go home from school and wondering if it would be better to run away (yes, those were the days when nine year-olds did walk to and from school without parental chaperones) and realising that I had no choice but to go and face the very loud music that awaited me.

This was the pivotal moment of my childhood: when I learned about consequences; when I learned the difference between fantasy and reality.

© Claire Holland October 2007

Claire is studying on the Masters in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University

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